"Higher volumes on fewer platforms means a lot of scale globally," Thai-Tang said at last month's J.P. Morgan Auto Conference in New York. "And this translates into much more efficient use of engineering and capital investment. This is a huge source of efficiency for us. We've taken those efficiencies and reinvested it into doing more products faster -- having a much fresher showroom lineup -- and also those global products enable us to go into new markets much quicker."
Nearly one-third of Ford's sales now are vehicles built on its compact C1 platform, including the global Focus. Previously, Ford built and sold different versions of the Focus in various parts of the world, forcing plants to source unique parts and making it difficult to match production with demand.
And, of course, the company pared its brand roster to just two: Ford and Lincoln. Even that was a concession for Mulally, who originally wanted to ditch everything but the core Blue Oval lineup.
The result: Ford's automotive operations earned about $400 per vehicle sold in 2014, a $3,000 swing in eight years.
There are costs, though. Dumping six out of eight brands means Ford has much less to offer some customers, including those in the market for luxury vehicles. And moving everything to common global platforms means vehicles aren't as tailored to nuances in different markets' tastes.
Ford's fractured structure dated to its founder, Henry Ford, who established company operations around the world that functioned largely independently of one another. It was feasible at that time but far too inefficient for the costs necessary to compete in today's industry.
"We had Ford Argentina, Ford of England, Ford of Japan, and that legacy remained with us for almost 100 years," Thai-Tang said. "So we had a lot of redundancy and overlap. When Alan Mulally joined Ford, he saw that, and with his outsider perspective, he said, 'You guys are an international company, but you're not operating as a global company,' and he really drove that convergence."